Vancouver animal rescuers are reminding the public to spay and neuter their pets amid an increase in abandoned animals in the city.

Karen Duncan, co-founder of Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, told CTV News her organization sees more cats abandoned each month than it used to when it began two decades ago.

"First of the month, we brace ourselves," Duncan said. "In that week, we get calls of cats left behind. Neighbours call us. Landlords call us."

She said people tend to dump cats and kittens because they can't afford to take care of them or can't find housing that allows pets.

That's what she suspects happened with a group of kittens and two mother cats that recently arrived in VOKRA's care.

The two adult cats and nine kittens were placed in a large box, which was taped shut, and abandoned in the community garden across from the Vancouver Pound. The animals had just broken out of the box when a homeless man found them and decided to stay with them overnight to protect them from predators.

In the morning, he went into the pound to get carriers for the cats.

"They trusted him by then, so he could put them into the kennels and get them locked in," Duncan said. "We were called to come and get them, because the pound does dogs."

VOKRA shared the story on its Facebook page, along with some photos of the rescued cats.

Duncan said the kittens would have been "sitting ducks" in the park if the man hadn't protected them.

"We're all so grateful that he looked out for them," she said. "The coyotes go through all the time. They're looking for something to eat."

She said she hadn't been able to meet the man who stayed with the cats overnight, but that she would love to.

As for whoever abandoned the cats, Duncan said they should have called VOKRA rather than placing the animals in danger.

"I know you're in a tight spot, but there's better things to do than to do this," she said.

Duncan also has a message for landlords that don't allow pets in their buildings, something she said exacerbates the problem of pet abandonment.

"I would much rather rent to somebody with an animal," she said. "People with animals stay. They need a place. They need a safe place. They're not going to trash your house if you look after your house, you know?"